Haha...so it's been ages since I posted the last blog about Unabashed Gaming episode 6. Regardless, here is part 2 of a potential 4-part series, pros and cons of running published material vs. home-written: Cons of Running Published Material.
1. Free Scenarios: Quality Not Assured
Specifically, those not included with paid material. Stuff you find on forums, or even included with quickstart rules...those are generally meant to go from concept to published within a matter of weeks to months, depending on who's writing the thing. The sad result is that an adventure can be incoherent, unbalanced, poorly-written, or all of the above.
This can result in you spending more time trying to fix things so that players don’t get confused, which means less time to read the scenario for mood/theme and get familiar with it in that sense. Having to fix someone else's work is also a wonderful way to get utterly sick of a concept before you even get a chance to bring it to the table.
2. Less Room for Improvisation
This is really more of a hindrance to new GMs who may view pre-written material as sacrosanct (Hint: Nothing is so good that a nice round of ad-libbing can't make it better). However, there is the perception that once something has been bound in a .pdf or a softcover booklet that it's complete. This is an incorrect assumption, because your players will always want to do something that is not written down.
3. Potential Cheat Factor
Obviously this is an issue no one wants to really think about, but it's still one that you definitely don't want to deal with. Regardless, it's still the truth that with published scenarios, you’re playing something that unscrupulous players can also get their hands on, allowing them to game the system/story. It's not an issue I've ever encountered, but then again I tend to run home-written stuff for the majority of my GM life.
Hopefully you’ve managed to weed out those assholes by now, if you've ever encountered any.
4. A Dearth of Story
Shorter scenarios have very little story to them, for players that thrive on plot and intrigue, it’s definitely not for them. This leaves it up to you, the GM to create the driving plot as it pertains to the storyteller PCs. At the same time, most pre-written campaigns are made so that players can insert any number of 'genned characters in without adversely affecting the plot.
This will occasionally leave players without an in-game hook to keep pursuing the plot, especially if you're just reading and following along as they are, and not adding a bit of your own spice to the game.
5. Overstaying One's Welcome
Everyone's had to deal with interest drain at some point in campaigns. Either the plot isn't moving as swiftly or in a direction you're engaged with, or perhaps the players have been losing interest in their characters' stories. Perhaps its a combination of a multitude of factors, and the end result is you're looking at sixteen more sessions of written material while players start looking towards new systems or campaigns.
It's easy to get stuck in this kind of rut, especially with ambitiously long pre-written scenarios. The important thing to remember is you can drop a game at any time or, with enough creativity, find a way to end it in a few sessions. Just don't get stuck in a bad relationship with a pre-written game, because your players deserve better than that.